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IRENA outlines a bright future for solar photovoltaic.

Report • Nikolay Chavdarov •
IRENA outlines a bright future for solar photovoltaic.

Reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is at the heart of the world’s accelerating shift from climate-damaging fossil fuels towards clean, renewable forms of energy. The steady rise of solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation forms a vital part of this global energy transformation. In addition to fulfilling the Paris Agreement, renewables are crucial to reduce air pollution, improve health and well-being, and provide affordable energy access worldwide. This paper from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) presents options to speed up deployment and fully unlock the world’s vast solar PV potential over the period until 2050. The analysis follows the REmap Case outlined in IRENA’s Global Energy Transformation roadmap, which highlights ways to step up the energy transformation over the next three decades in contrast to current plans. 

Specifically, the paper highlights the growth needed in solar PV to achieve climate goals. It also offers insights on cost reduction, technology trends and the need to prepare electricity grids for rising shares of solar PV. The expansion of solar energy under the REmap scenario could lead to a reduction in emissions of 4.9 gigatons of CO2 in 2050, which is about 21% of total emissions prevention. IRENA also expects that solar power will be the second largest source of electricity in the world after wind power and will produce about 25% of electricity during this time. This will require an increase of capacity from 480 GW at the end of 2018 (according to IRENA statistics) to 2840 GW in 2030. In 2050, solar power should increase to 8519 gigawatts, which is 18 times more than at the end of 2018. This result can be achieved by increasing the rate of solar power construction up to 270 gigawatts a year in 2030 and up to 372 gigawatts a year in 2050. In comparison, according to the IEA forecast, solar power will increase by 114 gigawatts in the current 2019. 

IRENA expects that in 2050, Asia will continue to dominate the market with more than 50% of installed solar photovoltaic capacity, followed by North America - 20% and Europe - 10%. Annual investment costs in photovoltaic systems are estimated at about 192$ billion in 2050. In 2018, they were in the order of 114$ billion. The relatively small increase in investment, with a significant increase in annual solar capacity construction, is explained by the further decrease in the cost of technology.

In addition, the International Renewable Energy Agency is projecting a further reduction in solar system costs over the next three decades, which will make them more competitive. By 2030, capital expenditures could drop to340-834$per kilowatt, and in 2050 to 165-481$per kilowatt. For comparison, in 2018 the average capital cost was $ 1,210 per kilowatt. In its report, IRENA also forecasts that the number of employees in the solar sector in the world will increase from the current 3.6 million to 11.7 million in 2030 and to 18.7 million in 2050.

The full report of IRENA you could find out here.